Street begging is making Sheffield city centre a 'third world country' with 'professionals' raking in '£100 a day'.
That's the view of Sheffield City Centre Residents' Action Group who compiled a consultation on the issue of people who beg on the streets on the request of South Yorkshire Police.
One resident said the number of street beggars has 'increased massively' over the last two or three years while another person living in the city centre revealed they have seen people seen 'jogging briskly to their patch before slumping to the floor, crouching under an old coat and proceeding to beg'.
Another anonymous resident who has lived in the city centre for 12 years said: " The image of Sheffield city centre is dragged down by these people, who don’t exist in Meadowhall. Something substantial needs doing.
"The council has been quick, determined and heavy-handed dealing with tree preservation people, so why can’t it deal with beggars? We know the solutions are complex, but we have professional people who now comprehend the issues, so what are we waiting for?"
Another response said street begging was a 'guise' for people to 'parade' their alcohol and drug addictions in the city centre.
Peter Sephton, chairman of the group said some people can earn up hundreds of pounds a week and added Sheffield could become a 'national leader' on the problem if key figures 'get their act together'.
He said people are coming in from other towns and cities to beg in Sheffield and many who appear homeless actually have accommodation to got to.
"Begging is making our centre look like a third world country. Few of those involved are homeless, some are professional beggars, some are coming in from other towns to earn cash, some have mental health problems, some are addicted to drugs, alcohol or betting. The last thing they need is money from the public to fund their addictions.
"SCCRAG has sympathy with those who have genuine problems, but begging on the street does not deal with their problems. In fact it makes their problems worse because, by supporting their unhealthy lifestyle, it keeps them away from the agencies that can help."
Inspector Matt Collings, said: “We are aware that begging in the city centre is a real cause for concern for business owners, residents and also visitors to Sheffield. It is a complex problem as the people involved range from those who are vulnerable and who need significant help and support, to those who we believe sadly prey on the public to obtain, in some cases, reasonably large amounts of money.
“It is also extremely important that the public understand they have a vital role to play here. Through the “Help us Help” scheme (http://www.helpushelp.uk/), Sheffield City Council and ourselves are trying to encourage the public to support the organisations that directly work with the vulnerable individuals in Sheffield, rather than pass the money directly to those begging. This is something we can all help with.
Coun Jayne Dunn, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety, said: “We completely agree with SCCRAG that giving to people who beg is not the answer and that most people on the street have somewhere to stay.
“We encourage people to donate to local charities or buy The Big Issue North as these charities, along with the council, help people on the street move to a better life.
“We’re working closely with charities on the Help Us Help campaign which explains what help is available in Sheffield, and what to do for the best when you see someone.
“We’re also working with partners, including the police, with a mixture of support for people that want it and enforcement for those who persist in begging. However efforts can be hampered by people giving money to those on the streets, which can lead to an increase in the number of people who beg.”